The Bullets' most recent defeat, a 102-96 setback against the New York Knicks Friday night at Capital Centre, again brought out the team's most glaring weakness: When it needed a basket, there was no dependable shooter to get it.

"Our defense has been good all season," said Coach Gene Shue, "but you still have to score."

The Bullets played the Knicks even most of the game, but after taking a 96-93 lead with 3:48 to play, they couldn't score again. The Knicks ran off nine straight points.

It was the third straight time the Bullets have lost to the Knicks this season and it was their fifth defeat in six games, dropping them to 14-20.

Elvin Hayes is the only Bullet to score 30 or more points in a contest this season, and he has done it only once. That was at Atlanta Nov. 15 and the Bullets won by 12.

Not having someone to go to confidently in the closing seconds has cost them a number of games. In those decided by nine points or less, the Bullets are 2-11.

Hayes is the man shue wants to go to inside near the end and Kevin Grevey and Greg Ballard are the preferred outside shooters. None of the three is a "clear out the side and let him work" type such as George Gervin, Julius Erving or Ray Williams. Shootrs like them are hard to come by, obviously, but lacking an overall offense, the Bullets need a one-on-one artist badly.

General Manager Bob Ferry is trying desperately to improve the team, but there isn't much help available from the free agent ranks. Ferry signed two last week, guard David Britton and forward Keith McCord, but neither is a game breaker and neither played against the Knicks.

The Bullets' only hope appears to be a major trade. The problem is that they don't have anything of trade value. Their most prized possession right now is next year's No. 1 draft choice, which would be the seventh pick overall.